Ubiquitous Microblogging in the Enterpise
Martin Böhringer and Peter Gluchowski
Fakultät für Wirtschaftswissenschaften, Chemnitz University of Technology, Thüringer Weg 7, 09126 Chemnitz, Germany
Keywords: Microblogging, Twitter, Social software, Web 2.0, Information management, Ubiquitous computing.
Abstract: Microblogging has become a primary trend topic in the World Wide Web. Compared with the history of
blogs, wikis and social networking services, its adoption in commercial enterprises seems to be the next
logical step. However, in the case of enterprise microblogging there is not only the possibility of copying
the public web’s functionality. In enterprise scenarios the mechanism of microblogging could have much
more use cases than its public pendants, i.e., ‘tweeting’ processes, machines and software. We
systematically develop a scenario for ubiquitous microblogging, which means a microblogging space
including human and non-human information sources in an organisation. After presenting a conceptual
description we discuss examples for the approach. Based on a comprehensive study of existing literature we
finally present a detailed research agenda towards ubiquitous microblogging for enterprise information
Business users have to deal with a high variety of
information sources and business processes.
Especially knowledge workers and managers face
the dichotomy of information overflow on the one
hand and the need for staying informed on the other
hand. With activity streaming, RSS and vendor-
driven solutions like Salesforce Chatter we currently
see the appearance of a new paradigm of enterprise
information allocation following a subscription
model. Users do not have to define information
needs for IT departments or have to call special
transactions in ERP systems to get the needed
information. Instead, they subscribe to information
related to a certain person, a business process or an
information object.
The most popular implementation of such
subscription approach in the public internet is the
microblogging service Twitter. It is an impressive
example of an unorganised system of information
sources which can be handled by the user with a
simple following/un-following principle. The
research vision of ubiquitous microblogging (short
form is #ubimic, the ‘#’ relates to the so-called
hashtags in Twitter) presented in this paper links to
these characteristics and describes a scenario where
every kind of information source is represented by a
microblog. This paper describes this approach from
a conceptual point of view as a way of information
allocation in enterprise information systems. The
#ubimic vision from a computer science point of
view has already been described in Böhringer &
Gaedke (2010).
In doing so, we answer the following research
What does ubiquity mean in enterprise
microblogging contexts?
How and why could ubiquitous microblogging
be useful?
What are open research issues to meet the
The aim of this paper is to aggregate current
developments of microblogging technology to a
comprehensive vision of future microblogging,
named ubiquitous microblogging due to its all-
embracing character. Following this goal, we started
in section 1 by identifying and motivating the
problem. Section 2 presents an overview of
microblogging and defines the objectives of a
ubiquitous microblogging solution inspired by
current Web 2.0 applications. Chapter 3
demonstrates the approach with examples from
Twitter. Due to the highly dynamic research field
and the early research stage of our approach we
provide a comprehensive evaluation of our concept
Gluchowski P. and Böhringer M. (2010).
THE BEAUTY OF SIMPLICITY - Ubiquitous Microblogging in the Enterpise.
In Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems - Software Agents and Internet Computing, pages 65-70
DOI: 10.5220/0002864300650070
in discussing open research questions on the way to
its realisation based on existing work.
2.1 Microblogging
The principle of microblogging is best known via
Twitter, its most famous application. Members have
their own public microblog where they can post
short updates. Other users can be ‘followed’ by
adding them to one’s personal network. An
aggregated view of all updates by followed
microblogs appears in chronological order on the
user’s start page. Microblogging services often
support a wide range of contribution possibilities.
For example, messages to Twitter can be posted via
mobile text messages, desktop clients or several
third-party applications.
Parallel to the adoption beyond internet users,
Twitter and microblogging in general became a
subject of research. Due to its unique approach,
researchers from different disciplines are interested
in the topic. Two general kinds of research works
can be identified in the existing body of knowledge:
A first group contains research which explains the
approach using statistical description (Java et al.
2007, Krishnamurthy et al. 2008, Huberman et al.
2009, Hughes & Palen 2009, Zhao & Rosson 2009)
or in building theory for predicting user behaviour
(Barnes & Böhringer 2009, Günther et al. 2009).
The second class deals with microblogging in
special use cases and is mostly design science or
case study oriented as these works go beyond
Twitter and develop further approaches for
supporting, e.g., enterprise information management
(Böhringer & Richter 2009, Barnes et al. 2010) and
e-learning (Ebner & Schiefner 2008, Skiba 2008)
with microblogging applications or research
technological foundations (Passant et al. 2008,
Sandler & Wallach 2009, Assogba & Donath 2009).
We will discuss these existing works on
microblogging in detail in section 5 as we develop
an agenda for further research.
2.2 Ubiquitous Microblogging
The new term of ‘ubiquitous microblogging’ leans
on the well-known research field of ‘ubiquitous
computing’. While the latter understands ubiquity in
the sense that artificial computing devices are
everywhere in the real world (Abowd & Mynatt
2000), the meaning of ubiquitous microblogging is
that of real world objects being integrated and
represented in an artificial computing space. In our
definition, ubiquitous microblogging means a
microblogging system including ‘everyone and
everything’ in an organisation, which means that
information from every human and non-human
information source is represented via microblogging.
Therefore we borrow the conceptual meaning of
‘ubiquitous’ in the sense of its Latin origin
Weiser (1991) in his vision of ubiquitous
computing stated that ‘the most profound
technologies are those that disappear’. Figuratively
speaking, this is also true for ubiquitous
microblogging as the goal behind our approach is to
hide the complexity of information access in the real
world by providing a flat information space
accessible by the easy following-mechanism. This
leads to the objectives of a solution for ubiquitous
microblogging: following the core microblogging
approach it should support a maximum of ease of
use with nothing more necessary for usage than to
understand the natural principle of following and un-
following other people or information sources. The
main task for an information system for ubiquitous
microblogging therefore is to provide this simple
access to manifold information sources in the
required information space (i.e., an organisation) and
make the underlying complexity ‘disappear’. Table 1
provides a summary of the final objectives resulting
from the discussed specifications of microblogging
in a ubiquitous understanding.
The best source of evidence for the described
scenario of ubiquitous microblogging is Twitter.
Example A in figure 1 shows a humidity sensor,
which posts status updates from a tomato plant.
Example B shows a simple example of a software
programme connected to Twitter (in this case the
software testing framework of a research group at
our university tweets its current status). Example C
shows the Twitter stream of Tower Bridge in
London, where each posting contains information
about the current action (closing/opening), the ship
which caused the action and the ship’s direction.
The examples listed have one thing in common.
They represent highly specialised information
sources which are not from interest for a broad
ICEIS 2010 - 12th International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems
Table 1: Objectives of a solution for ubiquitous microblogging.
Origin of objectives Objectives
Objectives based on
microblogging properties
O1: Ease of use
O2: Ease of understanding (following-mechanism)
O3: Social networking functionality
O4: Possibility for interactive communication between the channels
O5: Open access to the platform (API, mobile clients et cetera)
Objectives based on the
ubiquitous approach
O6: Integration of multiple sources within the system boundaries
O7: Access to external information sources (i.e., Twitter)
Objectives based on the
enterprise context
O8: Filtering and re-composing of content (Böhringer & Richter 2009)
O9: Searching and analysing microblogging content (Barnes et al. 2010)
Figure 1: Examples of ubiquitous microblogging on Twitter.
public. However, for some stakeholders they provide
important information. As the publisher of the
information does not know, who these stakeholders
will be, microblogging with its following-
mechanism provides a simple and elegant way of
information allocation.
When transferring this thought to a business
environment, it is clear that, at virtually any time,
potentially new information requirements can
evolve, which could be covered by a ubiquitous
microblogging system. Existing research on
microblogging in enterprises confirms this effect of
unanticipated information reuses through their use of
public distribution (Böhringer & Richter 2009,
Barnes et al. 2010). Research discusses this
phenomenon as Serendipity (Vinoski 2008.
The developed scenario of ubiquitous microblogging
produces a number of open research questions in a
wide range of disciplines. In the following
paragraphs we aim to provide a research agenda
towards the successful utilisation of ubiquitous
microblogging with a focus on the enterprise
context. In order to provide a foundation for further
research, we explicitly formulate and address
research tasks.
4.1 Understanding Microblogging
Microblogging can be seen as a unique
phenomenon. It is an extremely simple tool and yet
it has gained sustainable success. Many researchers
in the field of information systems and computer
science – the paper’s authors included – have not
perceived the platform’s potential until recently.
Since the benefits of microblogging therefore seem
to be hard to determine in a logical and deductive
way, using the reverse approach and exploring the
phenomenon is an important research task.
Questions like ‘How do people use microblogging?’
and ‘Why do people use microblogging?’ are a
reasonable source of knowledge on aspects of
ubiquitous microblogging.
A large part of existing research is based on
statistical description of Twitter. In an early paper,
THE BEAUTY OF SIMPLICITY - Ubiquitous Microblogging in the Enterpise
Java et al. (2007) present a topology of various uses
and usage intentions on Twitter. They further find
that Twitter’s users extend the Twitter question,
‘What are you doing?’ by including information
sharing (e.g. URLs) and normal conversations on the
platform. Further statistical studies of Twitter were
presented by a number of researchers including
Krishnamurthy et al. (2008, identification of
different user types) and Huberman, Romero and
Wu (2009, networks on Twitter).
Going one step further, some research has been
conducted to develop behaviouristic models for
explaining the ‘why’ in microblogging (Barnes and
Böhringer 2009, Günther et al. 2009). However,
with only two existing works on modelling
microblogging behaviour, there is no established
research framework yet. Clearly, there is a need to
understand the underlying principles of
microblogging services like Twitter in order to
design and implement successful expansions like
ubiquitous microblogging.
R1: Build and test predictive models for user
behaviour in microblogging services.
Enterprise adoption of microblogging is in a very
early stage of development. Therefore, there are not
yet many users in the enterprise context, which
would be a prerequisite for broader studies of the
area. As an alternative, existing cases should be
investigated in detail. Hence, the case study method
is a reasonable research methodology for learning
about microblogging in enterprises. To the best of
our knowledge there exist only two research case
studies (Böhringer & Richter 2009, Barnes et al.
2010), yet. Collecting and analysing more cases and
conducting multi-case analyses are important future
research tasks.
R2: Conduct case studies and multi-case
4.2 Technical Issues
There is significant potential in supporting users in
searching the ‘hair stack’ for important information
(objective O9). For Twitter there exist a number of
small applications for visualisation and text mining.
However, they are prototype implementations and
are not integrated to each other or well-documented.
From a scientific point of view, little research has
been done in this area. Only Assogba and Donath
(2009) argue for a stronger visual support of
microblogging users and present a platform for
‘visual microblogging’.
Further, the user would benefit from support by
automated agents understanding the semantic
meaning of the information. For this reason, Passant
et al. (2008) present a concept for semantic
microblogging. However, the main question for the
enrichment of text with semantic information is user
acceptance, which is an important point in
microblogging as a medium that is mainly based on
the ability to publish information fast and easily. An
alternative to semantic markup of microblogging
postings is to understand the meanings of natural
language using Natural Language Processing (NLP).
However, it can be questioned how effectively NLP
could work on the very short, often informal and
possibly flawed microblogging postings. First
experimental prototypes have demonstrated the basic
feasibility of the approach (see, for example, the
R3: Support users with visualisation and
analysing functionality including semantic
4.3 Conceptual Issues
Our approach of ubiquitous microblogging implies
challenging conceptual issues. An important feature
of microblogging is the chance to interact with other
microbloggers. However, in a microblogging space
with actors like machines, sensors and processes,
this is hard to achieve (objective O4 conflicts with
O6). A user might want to ask ‘@machineR2D2
when is your next maintenance due?’. As discussed
above, text mining/NLP could be a possible solution,
but it is questionable whether the technology is
mature enough to achieve a good reliability. A
solution could be to divide microblogs in
unidirectional and bidirectional blogs. Unidirectional
blogs like @machineR2D2 could be associated to a
bidirectional channel, like the microblog of the
machine’s technician, for providing a backchannel.
The research challenge here, again, is solving these
problems with respect to simplicity and transparency
for users.
Another level of complexity evolves due to the
usage of mashups. Mashups could be very useful for
fulfilling O8. However, if mashups re-arrange
postings and are published as new microblogs, the
same posting exists twice. For example, a mashup
could aggregate all the microblogs of a machine
park’s devices and filter for the keyword ‘error’. The
result of this mashup could be a new microblog
‘@machine_errors’. Problematic in this scenario is
that the same event occurs in two microblogs, which
could lead to distorted analyses and double
ICEIS 2010 - 12th International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems
appearances. There are two possible solutions: First,
it could be defined that the original posting can only
occur in one, the original, microblog (i.e.,
@machineR2D2) and all other re-postings including
mashups (i.e., in @machine_errors) should be
handled as retweets. Second, from a conceptual
point of view, microblogs could be seen as sets of
postings and therefore set operations could be
applied to microblogs (mashups could be expressed
as basic operations like intersections and unions).
Although if a posting belongs to two sets double
appearances are precluded as both sets refer to the
same one element. While the second alternative
could be more elegant from a mathematical point of
view, its intuitive understanding for the users might
be questioned.
Further conceptual challenges include the
integration of existing information systems and
reliable rights management structures. Our short
discussion of conceptual issues shows that there
might not be the optimal solution from scratch. As
most of the problems do not exist on Twitter or other
known platforms, future works have to involve
experimental research on these issues.
R4: Conduct experimental research in order to
find reasonable solutions for conceptual issues.
4.4 Business Issues
There is a clear lack of research concerning the
business value of microblogging. To our knowledge
there are no ROI studies or use case analyses. While
significant savings and increasing efficiency can be
expected because of the rapid information
dissimilation, the reduced email traffic, as well as
awareness effects (Böhringer & Richter 2009,
Barnes et al. 2010), the potential negative impacts of
microblogging on productivity because of distraction
and ‘useless’ information (both phenomena are
described by Barnes et al. 2010) has not yet been
addressed properly.
The huge success of Twitter suggests that the
positive effects clearly outweigh the negative.
However, although many professional users such as
freelancers, media workers, researchers and IT
professionals use Twitter, the microblogging service
clearly is shaped by (semi-)private contents, which
leads to ‘fun’ as a positive effect for the users. Fun,
though, might not be a reliable factor in ROI
R5: Develop and apply suitable methods for ROI
calculation for (ubiquitous) microblogging
4.5 Management, Law and Ethics
Other research questions focus on the social
consequences of a ubiquitous microblogging
scenario. From an organisational perspective, due to
the direct flow of information a change in corporate
culture and an at least virtual flattening of
hierarchies could be expected. Further, a particularly
interesting research question is the change in
communication behaviour because of
microblogging. In their case study, Barnes et al.
(2010) report that users see microblogging as an
efficient way to close their tasks. Following this
observation, in posting their information users would
have finished their information duties. However,
according to the classical communication model
(sender-receiver), with only posting information into
a microblog, communication has not taken place
until the receiver reads it. This means that, in
opposition to traditional media like the telephone or
email, the (potential) recipients of information are
responsible for finding and reading the pieces of
information. The possible advantage of this
mechanism is that receivers of the informational
content can also be people who would not have been
anticipated by the sender and therefore unexpected
communication could take place. However, it also
could happen that users overlook important
information. It must be questioned if the possibility
of ‘lost’ information is acceptable in the enterprise
context or if this scenario can be excluded by
appropriate solutions (i.e. in using optional
R6: Research consequences of microblogging for
corporate organisation and communication.
Finally, there are a lot of unsolved questions
from legal and ethical perspectives. Is it ethically
acceptable that managers judge their team members
by their status postings? Do we lose human
relationships if we foster microblogging usage? Can
microblogging usage be obligatory against a
background of privacy and data protection? Can
humans and machines communicate on the same
level? On the other hand there are significant
advantages in terms of law fulfilment and ethical
standards: these include the fulfilment of
documentation and archiving requirements, process
transparency and equal access to information.
R7: Explore and discuss ethical and legal
consequences of (ubiquitous) microblogging.
THE BEAUTY OF SIMPLICITY - Ubiquitous Microblogging in the Enterpise
The presented concept of ubiquitous microblogging
as allocation principle for multiple enterprise
information sources is a research vision. The listed
open issues show that there are many tasks on the
way towards its realisation. We are going to test the
vision in different use cases. We are currently
running projects with RFID sensors in a LEGO-
based factory and Arduino-based mobile sensors.
Further, in case studies and experiments in Twitter
and enterprise microblogging applications we are
trying to understand how microblogging is applied at
the user side (Barnes and Böhringer, 2009; Barnes et
al., 2010). Finally, we are working on technological
foundations for ubiquitous microblogging and
therefore cooperate with different vendors of
microblogging technology like the SAP-related
ESME project, the microblogging-based artificial
intelligence system Akibot and the enterprise
microblogging system Communote.
The community around the idea of ubiquitous
microblogging is organised around
We encourage other researchers to contribute and
discuss their ideas there or on Twitter using the
Hashtag #ubimic.
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